NBC's This Is Us is a fascinating blend of old school family drama, the kind with a big heart, and a bigger tissue box, and new school wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey puzzle box mystery. There's nothing more satisfying after having a cathartic cry than it sit down and try and figure out whodunit, or in the case of This Is Us "when and what dunit?" As the story of the Pearson family has been on summer hiatus, fans have spawned dozens of This Is Us Jack death theories, from the serious to the very silly.
With the show about to return for Season 2, we've looked at all the crazy internet theories and boiled them down to the Top Three most plausible scenarios. That means that some of the more outlandish or gruesome theories, like "Kate kills him" or "Miguel kills him" are right out. Yes, Rebecca does end up marrying Jack's best friend Miguel, but this isn't that kind of party.
This also means the more left field type theories like "he dies saving people from a house fire" and "he died in 9-11" are also out. This Is Us trades in realism, and though both these theories are really popular, they're also a bit too melodramatic, and heavy handed. (The 9/11 theory is also out because we're pretty sure Jack died before 2000, when the Big Three were still teenagers.)
So what are the most plausible answers?
He Dies From Terminal Illness
This is the perfect This Is Us type death. It's realistic. It's a tear-jerker and a half. And people (like Kate) will totally blame themselves for it, because they "wished their parent would die," even when it literally has nothing to do with them, it's just life.
Now the argument against this theory is "there's no sign of illness!' And yes, Jack, other than his taste for Maker's Mark, does see to be perfectly healthy in 1996. But cancer happens. As someone who lost her own father to cancer (esophageal cancer: diagnosis to death, almost 5 months to the day), I can tell you that when it happens, it can happen *fast.*
This sort of lightning strike tragedy would totally change everything. Jack would have to stop drinking. Rebecca and Miguel would grow closer together caring for a person they both love at the end of his life, helping to build the foundation of their relationship, etc etc. I totally buy this one.
He Dies While Driving Drunk
This one was the answer we all thought was coming in the finale last season, but then didn't. It tied in to Kate's self-blame, and it seemed to be the direction things were going as Jack blew his sobriety with increasing gusto, and then drove to NYC to ruin his wife's performance.
But thankfully it didn't happen. For one thing, it would have turned This Is Us into one long "Don't Drink Kids!" PSA. For another, it makes things more complicated -- Jack drove drunk just fine, and lived to take a swing at Ben as well.
It still could happen in Season 2, especially if the show decides to have Jack go off the rails now that Rebecca has thrown him out, but I'm personally hoping for better.
He Dies In A Plane Crash
Now, while this might feel like a total left field tragedy, on par with "he dies in a house fire," it's not. There's a lot of weird little clues about issues around airplanes than have been seeded through the first season. Kate is mortally terrified of flying -- bizarrely so. (It would be more realistic to have her hatred of airplanes be tied to her ongoing struggle with sizism.)
Then there's Kevin is seen smashing up his model airplane collection, and we don't know why. While airplane crashes are relatively rare, they do happen, and they can feel like punishment (Again with Kate's blaming herself for her father's death.) The shock!trauma of such a loss -- especially if Jack and Rebecca are still broken up and he's living with Miguel, is another way to bring Jack's BFF into the story and position him as Rebecca's next spouse.
Of these three, I like this one best for the seeding of it in scenes set in the future, while having the past give no trace of the Pearsons' upcoming loss.